Allen, Charles P. (ca. 1820-1852)
Charles P. Allen (1818-1852) was a house carpenter active in Granville County and nearby counties during the late antebellum period, when planters were prospering from the production of bright leaf tobacco in the area. He represents the many rural carpenters whose small workshops constructed many of the region’s modest buildings. The survival of a contract for a trio of buildings he agreed to construct provides an unusual record of such a small time artisan’s work.
Allen was well enough established in his trade by 1840 to take an apprentice, James Harris, aged 7, to the carpenter’s trade. Marriage bond records indicate that Charles married Elizabeth Jones in 1840 (or 1846) in Franklin County, N. C. In 1850, Allen took 7-year-old Thomas Omerry as an apprentice to the house carpenter’s trade. The United States Census of 1850 listed Charles P. Allen as a carpenter born in North Carolina in about 1822 and head of a household that included his wife Elizabeth, their three young children, plus James Callahan, 12, Thomas Ommery, 7, and James Harris, 17, identified as a “mulatto” farmer. Most of their neighbors were farmers. The census indicated that Charles P. Allen was the owner of three enslaved people. The information in findagrave.com states that Charles P. Allen was born on July 17, 1818; married Elizabeth C. Jones on May 12, 1840, in Franklin County, N. C.; died on July 19, 1852, and was buried in the Hester Family Cemetery in Granville County. After Allen’s death, Thomas Omerry was apprenticed to a different master.
An agreement between Allen and planter W. J. (William J.) Hawkins illustrates the age-old language to describe a relatively unpretentious frame house. Often such structures were erected without leaving a record, making this example especially useful.
An agreement of October 4, 1845 between C. P. Allen and W. J. Hawkins specified that Allen would “before the 2d of December next well and substantially erect and build in a good and workmanlike manner a dwelling House of the following description and dimension…. 48 feet by 18 in the two rooms 18 by 18 and a passage 12 by 18 and a wing 30 by 20 and [illegible] passage 10 by 20 the whole house 10 feet pitch with seven doors and 7 windows 15 light 10 by 12 and also a smoke House and a Dairy each 14 by 14 the first 12 feet the other 10 feet pitch.”
Allen was to furnish the timber and “every necessary article” except for locks and a few other items. The outside lumber was to be of heart pine. There was to be a hipped roof. The agreement stated that for every “[illegible] the work be prolonged and not finished Hawkins would deduct five per cent [from] the sum hereafter stipulated.” Hawkins was to pay Allen $250 and three months thereafter another $250. The house was to be built at Ridgeway, a community in Warren County beside the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad. Hawkins was to pay the cost of transporting timber from Franklinton (also on the railroad line) to Ridgeway. The masonry work was not included; presumably Hawkins employed another man or men for that.
William J. Hawkins (1819-1894) was a planter, physician, and railroad official. Born in present Vance County to a leading planter family, he graduated in 1842 from the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania and began practicing at Ridgeway, N. C. in Warren County. He accumulated wealth in land and slaves and became an investor and official in the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad, which ran through Ridgeway. In 1844 he married Mary Alethea Clark of Halifax County, and they had two children, Colin and Marmaduke. He bought 128 acres “near the Ridgeway Depot” in 1845, where Allen evidently built the small house and outbuildings contracted for in 1845.
The measurements given in the contract indicate that this is the simple Greek Revival style building that still stands in the backyard of the larger house noted below. It is traditionally said to have been Hawkins’s medical office, but it may have served as his and his wife’s residence for a time. The smokehouse and dairy also still stand in a remarkably complete and unusually well documented collection of simple buildings of their type and period.
After his wife Mary died in 1850, William married her sister Lucy, in 1855, and they had two children, Louise and Alethea. In 1855 Hawkins became president of the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad, and at about that time, he built a much grander house at the Ridgeway property in the style of Warren County builder Jacob W. Holt. Hawkins moved to Raleigh in 1890. His son Marmaduke continued to reside in the large house at Ridgeway which William had transferred to his ownership in 1877, shortly before Marmaduke’s marriage to Rebecca Davis.
- Catherine W. Bishir and Jerry Cross, “William J. Hawkins House,” National Register of Historic Places nomination (1978).
- Granville County Apprentice Docket, 1802-1867, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.
- Hawkins Family Papers, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
- Contributors:Charles P. Allen, carpenterDates:
1845-1846Location:Ridgeway, Warren CountyStreet Address:
US 1 at Ridgeway, Ridgeway, NCStatus:
The smokehouse and dairy described in the Allen-Hawkins agreement still stand, as does the slightly larger building believed to have been built as a dwelling, later used as an office.